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Man's effort to send fast-food worker to nursing school goes viral

POSTED: April 13, 2017 11:19 a.m.
Jessica Ivins/

A simple exchange at a drive-thru window ultimately changed the lives of a customer and the woman who took his order.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A simple exchange at a drive-thru window ultimately changed the lives of a customer and the woman who took his order.

Donald Carter pulled up to a Kansas City Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant in March for some chicken, and found himself chatting with the employee on the other end of the speaker — Shajuana Mays, Today reported.

After noticing Mays was obviously exhausted, Carter tried to cheer her up by asking her if she had any big plans. That’s when Mays revealed her dream — to leave her job in fast food and go to nursing school, WCMH News reported.

Carter got his food, wished her the best and drove away, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Mays and her goal.

“Literally crunching on the chicken and this thought dawns on me,” Carter told WCMH. “What if you pay for her to go to school?”

So Carter hatched a plan that involved setting up a GoFundMe page* and reaching out to his friends for help. He looked up the average cost of a CNA program and license — roughly $1,500 — and set out to raise the money with the help of his social network.

“I figured if I could get about 300 of my FB friends to put up $5 each, we could do it no problem,” Carter wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I’d do a Facebook live broadcast presenting her with the gift if we pulled it off. Just a random act of kindness from a few hundred strangers.”

Carter was shocked when — in just three days — hundreds of people rallied behind Mays and donated far beyond the $1,500 goal, Today reported. The effort spread so quickly that it even caught the attention of several nurses, who recommended Carter up the fundraising goal so that Mays could afford to become a licensed practical nurse as well, according to the Kansas City Star.

As the project gathered more momentum, Carter had a moment where he questioned if he was doing the right thing — after all, he didn’t even really know this woman or if this was really what she would want.

“I had a choice at that moment to shut it down and stop it, or let people’s kindness pour through this one little portal I created,” he told the Star. “So I threw caution to the wind. What do I have to lose to let people be extravagantly kind to someone?”

Carter put in a call to the manager of the Popeyes to ask if he could surprise Mays at work. Then, true to his promise, he showed up at the restaurant to present her with the life-changing gift. One of his friends caught the exchange on video and posted it to YouTube — as of Tuesday night it had been viewed more than 12,300 times.

The video shows Carter explaining to Mays that her “spark” inspired him, and that with the help of his Facebook friends, he was going to send her to nursing school. She immediately bursts into tears and pulls Carter in for a big hug.

“I don’t even know how to describe it in words,” Mays says. “It’s an emotional feeling right now that’s unexplainable, but it’s all good and happy emotions and feelings. I’m excited — I actually get to pursue something that I’ve always wanted to be doing for a very long time.”

Carter was inspired and uplifted by the response his idea elicited. It’s made him want to do more.

“What if we found someone every month and came together as a community and helped them?” he told the Star. “What can we do together to show kindness to somebody or to each other? It just shows how powerful it is when people collectively decide to do something like this.”

The GoFundMe account is still accepting donations for Mays. As of Tuesday night, the effort had raised more than $15,000.

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